Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Man and a Woman- a case for great genes

I watched “A Man and a Woman” last evening.

From Wikipedia: A Man and a Woman is a 1966 French film. The movie was written by Claude Lelouch and Pierre Uytterhoeven, and directed by Lelouch. It is notable for its lush photography (Lelouch had a background in advertising photography), which features frequent segues between full color, black-and-white, and sepia-toned shots, and for its memorable musical score by Francis Lai. The film tells the story of a young widow, Anne (Anouk Aimée), a film script supervisor whose late husband (Pierre Barouh) was a stuntman and died in an on-set accident, and a widower, Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a race car driver whose wife committed suicide after Jean-Louis was in a near fatal crash during the 24 hours of Le Mans. They meet at their respective children's school in Deauville. They share a ride home to Paris one night after Anne misses the last train, and their mutual attraction is immediate. The story follows their budding relationship over the course of several trips back to Deauville, and as they fall in love despite Anne's feelings of guilt and loss over her deceased husband. After a night together in Deauville, Anne finds herself unable to be unfaithful to the memory of her husband, and decides to leave Jean-Louis. While she is traveling back to Paris by train, Jean-Louis races to meet her at the station, and when she gets off the train she is surprised to see him there. Happy that her lover had come back for her, they embrace as the film ends, the final outcome of the relationship left open to interpretation.
The movie holds up very well after all of these years. One could quibble about the editing or about some of the artsy color effects, but the love story is strong and compelling. Anouk Aimee is stunning. She has beautiful hair that is cut about shoulder-length. It continually falls in her face and she brushes it back in a wonderfully feminine way. Her eyebrows are natural and not overfly harvested like is the fashion today. Trintigant is very handsome. He has an incredible profile. Even Pierre Barouh was no slouch in the looks department. These are a trio of the genetically blessed. There are also two child actors who play the golden couple’s offspring. They are natural and unaffected.

There are several memorable scenes. The first is when Trintignant is driving from the Monte Carlo race to Paris to see Aimee. He plays out in his head how the scene will unfold. He will go to the door and will rouse the concierge in order to find the right apartment. He will walk up the steps and ring the bell, but only once since he didn’t want to frighten her. She will open the door and he will walk in. He remembers, however, that he forgot to say something and rehearses what he will see. Of course when he gets to her apartment, none of this transpires since she isn’t there! This scene rings so true for all of us who rehearse what we are going to say in a particularly circumstance, only to find in actuality it is inappropriate or not necessary. There is a scene where the golden couple are in bed attempting to be intimate. The scene is overly long, but during this close contact, she begins to think of her dead husband and how much he meant to her. The film cuts between the love making and the memory. Trintignant mostly stays on top and rolls around. It looked silly, but was an important scene to set up the end of the movie. Another great scene is when they are at the Deauville beach watching a man walking his dog. Trintignant asks if she knows of the sculptor Giacometti. She says yes. He quotes the artist as having said that if there was a fire and he had a choice to save a Rembrandt or a cat, he would choose the cat. She finished the quote by saying “and then I would let it go free.” This was a very literate piece of dialogue the likes of which we don’t hear in movies of late.

One thing that I did notice is that a cigarette appears in every scene. In fact, it becomes an actor. The way that it is held, lit, and extinguished reflects the characters’ moods and attitudes. It was interesting to watch but all I could think of was how it was going to make her beautiful hair smell!

The score was beautiful and obviously French. It was a big hit in the US- yes, at one time we actually admired what other countries produced. No so much today.

In researching this review, I found that Aimee was married to Barouh and also to Albert Finney. Trintignant was married to Stephane Audran, another French actress. Wow, what a bunch of great genes!

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